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Man Ray

 (1890 - 1976)
Man Ray was active/lived in PA, New York, Pennsylvania, California / USA, France.  Man Ray is known for dada, surreal, cubist imagery.

Man Ray

    MAN RAY  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Man Ray
A Dada* movement painter, sculptor, film maker, and photographer, Man Ray became one of America's most influential artists.  He was based in New York City.

He was born with the name of Emmanuel Radensky in Philadelphia and was raised in New York City.  He worked for an engraving* firm and studied art briefly at the Ferrer School,  founded in Manhattan in 1911 with a free-school curriculum, which was non-hierarchical and emphasized self reliance, personal development, socialism, free-thinking and non-conformity.  In 1911, he began doing collage*, which was some of the first non-objective* art work in this country.  He also explored Cubism*, being influenced by Max Weber who had been to Paris and by exposure to talk at Alfred Stieglitz' Gallery 291*. Stieglitz introduced him to photography, and he became a widely sought after fashion photographer, earning his living in this way.

In 1915, he came under the influence of Marcel Duchamp and turned to Dadaist methods including a collage self-portrait with electric bells and a push button.  He derived his forms from his own ideas, not from nature.  In 1919, he began using the airbrush*, and then created hanging sculpture out of lamp shades.

He was a founder of the Societe Anonyme* in 1920, which was the first American organization to promote modern art.  The next year, he went to Paris and stayed for 20 years, and then lived in California until 1951. After that he returned to Paris, which he considered to be his true home.  There he participated in Surrealist* and Dada exhibitions and was involved in the making of four Surrealist films.

In May, 1999, ARTNews featured him as one of the top twenty-five most influential artists in the western world because of "his exploration of film, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage, and prototypes of what would eventually be called performance art* and conceptual art*". . .

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
ARTNews, May, 1999

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Man Ray
Man Ray was born in 1890, the son of Russian immigrants in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn.  One of his earliest memories was of a dada-like act: pressing his childish hands onto the bright green wetness of freshly painted shutters.  He was born with the name Emmanuel Radensky but was given the name Man Ray by his family when he was fifteen and wished to be known only by that name.  He moved with his family to New York City where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts and the Ferrer School, based on avant-garde curriculum, which emphasized free-thinking and non conformity.  From that time on he was largely self-taught.

As a young man he haunted the modern art exhibits at the gallery run by Alfred Stieglitz, who also introduced him to photography.  He became a widely sought-after fashion photographer, earning his living in this way.  But Man Ray was determined to be a painter.  His early influences were the Fauves* and then the Cubists, but the most enduring stamp on his work was Surrealism*.

From the start, the spirit of Man Ray's art collided with his life.  Take the day in 1915 when he met Marcel Duchamp, at a cottage in Ridgefield, New Jersey.  The two avant-garde artists didn't talk about art; they played tennis.  Duchamp, fresh from France, could barely speak English.  Man Ray, helpless in French, rummaged for two old racquets, and they played a game without a net - silent except for the small impish Man Ray calling the score and the tall elegant Duchamp answering simply "yes."  It was an unmistakably dada tennis match, and it spawned a friendship that lasted fifty years.  When Man Ray decided to move to Paris in 1921, Duchamp was there to greet him.

At first Ray took up photography to record his art, but photography often became the art.  When he had trouble selling his paintings, he supported himself with fashion and portrait photography. He was a founder of the Societe Anonyme* in 1920; it was the first group in America to promote modern art.  The next year he went to Paris and stayed for twenty years.  He fled Paris before the Nazi occupation and then lived in Hollywood where he continued to work and teach until 1951. After that he returned to Paris, which he considered to be his true home. Photography took second place to painting for the rest of his career.

He met Juliet Browner when he moved to Los Angeles; they lived together for six years.  In 1946 they were married in a double wedding ceremony with Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning.  They lived in Paris until Man Ray's death in 1976.  Juliet was sixty-five at the time of his death; she had never dealt with day-to-day responsibilities; her eyesight was failing; and she had a weakness for whiskey.  She was not well organized and tried to do everything herself.  Works by Man Ray disappeared, and when legitimate sales occurred, Juliet kept no ledger of transactions or information about buyers.  She was duped, swindled and conned by everyone who walked in.  Juliet's four brothers, who knew nothing about Man Ray or his work, were appointed as trustees of the estate and after Juliet's death mishandled everything.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Laurie Attias in ARTnews, October 1998
Cathleen McGuigan in Newsweek, November 28, 1988
From the Internet, and
"The Surreal Legacy of Man Ray" in ARTnews, June 2002

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, R-Z)

Man Ray (1890-1976)

Central to the development of Dada and Surrealism in the United States, Man Ray was the sole American artist to claim such a prominent role in both artistic movements. Producing paintings, photographs, collages, sculptures, and even avant-garde films, he consciously avoided easy classification, refusing to be recognized solely for his efforts in any one medium. Although this desire to resist stereotyping at first frustrated some scholars and critics, it is Man Ray's dedication to innovation that now defines his artistic legacy.

Showing a propensity for drawing and painting at an early age, and involving himself in artistic circles throughout his life, Man Ray adopted his pseudonym in 1909. Born Emmanuel Radnitzky on August 20, 1890, he was raised in Philadelphia by his Russian Jewish parents, who had only recently immigrated to the United States. He worked as an engraver and illustrator after graduating from high school in Brooklyn. From 1910 to 1912, he took life-drawing classes supervised by Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Francisco Ferrer Social Center. The following year he moved to Ridgefield, New Jersey, the site of an informal artists' colony. There he designed, illustrated and produced several small press pamphlets, such as the Ridgefield Gazook, published in 1915, and A Book of Divers Writings [sic].

A frequent visitor to Alfred Stieglitz's 291 gallery, Man Ray assimilated into his early work aspects of the European modernist art on view there.  In the mid-1910s he introduced Cubist elements in his abstracted still lifes and landscapes, drawing on the geometric forms, compressed space, faceted planes of Analytic Cubism. In 1916 Man Ray met the poet and collector Walter Arensberg, and soon became a habitué of his salon, which included Marcel Duchamp and Jean Picabia, with whom Man Ray would collaborate on Rongwrong, an avant-garde journal. Together, Duchamp and Man Ray were the proponents of the short-lived New York Dada movement, central in calling into question the status of the object with "readymade" sculptures and promoting an irreverent, iconoclastic attitude. With Duchamp and patron Katherine Dreier, he was also a founding member of the Société anonyme, "a public, non-commercial center for the study and promotion of modern art." (3)

After being exposed to the work of the European avant-garde on view in New York, Man Ray decided to travel to Paris, a trip funded by the sale of several paintings to the industrialist Ferdinand Howald. He remained in Paris for twenty years, until the onset of World War II forced him to flee. In 1922 he developed the "rayograph," a method of producing images directly from objects on photosensitive paper similar to a photogram. Created by arranging recognizable objects in an apparently casual and arbitrary way, Man Ray's rayographs transformed ordinary objects into mysterious images—a sensibility appreciated by the artist's colleagues in Paris, who would collectively be known as Surrealists.

At first recognized as a portrait photographer, Man Ray captured his friends—such vanguard luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Georges Braque, James Joyce, and Jean Vanguard—and exhibited these works in at the opening of the café Boeuf sur le Toit. By 1923, Man Ray notes, "I was an established photographer." (4) Commercial success followed, and Man Ray became one of the foremost haute-couture fashion photographers, publishing in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar; his impulse was to "combine art and fashion," collapsing the boundaries between the two domains. (5) Yet the artist maintained his experimental, avant-garde roots, publishing a scandalous collection of pornographic photographs in 1929 and exhibiting as a member of the Surrealists in several shows in the 1930s, such as those at Julien Levy gallery in New York, the New Burlington Gallery, London, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the major group exhibitions "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism," at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, "Exposition Internationale de Surréalisme" at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and "Surrealist Paintings, Drawings, Objects" at the London Gallery.

In addition to his participation in major group shows, during the 1920s and 1930s Man Ray also solidified his international reputation with numerous one-man exhibitions in the United States and in Europe. During this period Man Ray also continued to innovate, experimenting with the Sabattier, a solarization process that produced eerie photographic effects. By partially exposing his negatives to light, the artist created fantastic, dream-like images, ones that appeared to fuse the imaginary and the real. He used this solarization technique to great effect in his photographs of the female nude, producing poetic and mystical images of the nude that inspired his friends, artists Maurice Tabard and Raoul Tabac.

Beginning with the release of his first movie in 1923, Return to Reason, Man Ray also made substantial contributions to avant-garde film. He produced the first camera-less sequences of photographic images—"cine-rayographs"—developed by animating his rayographs. Throughout the 1920s he created such celebrated Surrealist films as Emak Bakia (1926), L'Etoile de mer (1928) and Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929), forming with his colleagues Hans Richter, Luis Bunuel, and Salvador Dali a new cinematic genre.

After a decade spent behind the camera, in the 1930s Man Ray returned to painting with a renewed vigor. Despite the high demand for his photographs, the painter explained, "it was inevitable that the continued contact with painters should keep smoldering in me my first passion—painting." (1) Living in Paris since 1921, he was a well-liked and influential participant in the avant-garde circle of artists and writers that counted Tristan Tzara, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and André Breton as members. He also traveled frequently to the South of France, to such Riviera locales as Antibes.

Man Ray settled in Hollywood in 1941, where he turned his attention primarily to painting and producing objects for ten years, when he returned to Paris. In 1961 Man Ray was awarded the gold medal in photography at the Venice Biennale, and in 1966 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art organized the first comprehensive retrospective of his work in the United States. Subsequently, a series of major retrospectives tour Europe, traveling to Milan, Rotterdam, Denmark, and the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. Man Ray died in Paris on November 18, 1976.

1. Marina Vanci-Perahim, ed., Man Ray (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 56. 
2. Man Ray, 1890-1976 (Ghent, Ludion Press, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1995), 11.
3. Vanci-Perahim, ed. Man Ray, 8.
4. Man Ray, 1890-1976, 318.
5. Vanci-Perahim, ed., Man Ray, 53.

Biography from Palm Beach Modern Auctions
Biography photo for Man Ray
While living in New York City, Man Ray was visually influenced by the 1913 Armory Show and galleries of European contemporary works. His early paintings display facets of cubism. After befriending Marcel Duchamp, who was interested in showing movement in static paintings, he created works that began to depict movement of the figures. An example is the repetitive positions of the dancer's skirts in The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows (1916).

In 1915, Man Ray had his first solo show of paintings and drawings after he had taken up residence at an art colony in Grantwood, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. His first proto-Dada object, an assemblage titled Self-Portrait, was exhibited the following year. He produced his first significant photographs in 1918.

Man Ray abandoned conventional painting to involve himself with Dada, a radical anti-art movement. He started making objects and developed unique mechanical and photographic methods of making images. For the 1918 version of Rope Dancer, he combined a spray-gun technique with a pen drawing. Like Duchamp, he did 'readymades,'—ordinary objects that are selected and modified.

His Gift Readymade (1921) is a flatiron with metal tacks attached to the bottom, and Enigma of Isidore Ducasse is an unseen object (a sewing machine) wrapped in cloth and tied with cord. Aerograph (1919), another work from this period, was done with airbrush on glass.

In 1920, Man Ray helped Duchamp make the Rotary Glass Plates, one of the earliest examples of kinetic art. It was composed of glass plates turned by a motor. That same year, Man Ray, Katherine Dreier, and Duchamp founded the Société Anonyme, an itinerant collection that was the first museum of modern art in the U.S.

Man Ray teamed up with Duchamp to publish one issue of New York Dada in 1920. For Man Ray, Dada's experimentation was no match for the wild and chaotic streets of New York. He wrote that "Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival."

In 1913, Man Ray met his first wife, the Belgian poet Adon Lacroix (Donna Lecoeur) (1887–1975), in New York. They married in 1914, separated in 1919, and formally divorced in 1937.

In July 1921, Man Ray went to live and work in Paris, France. He soon settled in the Montparnasse quarter favored by many artists. Shortly after arriving in Paris, he met and fell in love with Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), an artists' model and celebrated character in Paris bohemian circles. Kiki was Man Ray's companion for most of the 1920s. She became the subject of some of his most famous photographic images and starred in his experimental films, Le Retour à la Raison and L'Étoile de mer. In 1929, he began a love affair with the Surrealist photographer Lee Miller.

For the next 20 years in Montparnasse, Man Ray was a distinguished photographer. Significant members of the art world, such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Bridget Bate Tichenor and Antonin Artaud, posed for his camera.

Man Ray was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition with Jean Arp, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. Important works from this time were a metronome with an eye, originally titled Object to Be Destroyed, and the Violon d'Ingres, a stunning photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse, styled after the painter/musician Ingres. Violon d'Ingres is a popular example of how Man Ray could juxtapose disparate elements in his photography to generate meaning.

In 1934, surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim, known for her fur-covered teacup, posed nude for Man Ray in a well-known series of photographs depicting her standing next to a printing press.

With Lee Miller, his photographic assistant and lover, Man Ray reinvented the photographic technique of solarization. He also created a type of photogram he called "rayographs", which he described as "pure dadaism".

Man Ray directed a number of influential avant-garde short films, known as Cinéma Pur. He directed Le Retour à la Raison (2 mins, 1923); Emak-Bakia (16 mins, 1926); L'Étoile de Mer (15 mins, 1928); and Les Mystères du Château de Dé (27 mins, 1929). Man Ray also assisted Marcel Duchamp with the cinematography of his film Anemic Cinema (1926), and Ray personally manned the camera on Fernand Léger's Ballet Mécanique (1924). In René Clair's film Entr'acte (1924), Man Ray appeared in a brief scene playing chess with Duchamp.

Duchamp, Man Ray, and Francis Picabia were friends and collaborators. The three were connected by their experimental, entertaining, and innovative art.

Man Ray was forced to return from Paris to the United States due to the Second World War. He lived in Los Angeles, California from 1940 to 1951 where he focused his creative energy on painting. A few days after arriving in Los Angeles, Man Ray met Juliet Browner, a first-generation American of Romanian-Jewish lineage. She was a trained dancer, who studied dance with Martha Graham, and an experienced artists' model. The two married in 1946 in a double wedding with their friends Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. In 1948 Man Ray had a solo exhibition at the Copley Galleries in Beverley Hills, which brought together a wide array of work and featured his newly painted canvases of the Shakespearean Equations series.

Man Ray called Montparnasse home and returned there in 1951.

In 1963, he published his autobiography, Self-Portrait, which was republished in 1999.

He died in Paris on November 18, 1976 from a lung infection. He was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. Ray's epitaph reads "unconcerned, but not indifferent". When Juliet Browner died in 1991, she was interred in the same tomb. Her epitaph reads "together again." Juliet organized a trust for his work and donated much of his work to museums. Her plans to restore the studio as a public museum proved too expensive, such was the structure's disrepair. Most of the contents were stored at the Pompidou Center.

"Man Ray," Wikipedia

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About  Man Ray

Born:  1890 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died:   1976 - Paris, France
Known for:  dada, surreal, cubist imagery

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Man Ray